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Peer's battle to halt kinky sex lessons
By Tim Miles, Evening Standard
11 July 2003

A former education minister has warned that children as young as 11 could be involved in classroom discussions of perverse sexual practices as a result of proposed changes in the law.

Tory peer Baroness Blatch raised fears over proposals to scrap section 28, the legislative clause which prevents councils promoting homosexuality in schools.

In a last-ditch attempt to block new legislation, she warned that the result would be "teacher-led discussions on the use of sexual toys, sadism, masochism, dressing up and tying up, involving multiple sexual partners in sex and other activities which I cannot bring myself to mention".

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These matters, she said, were covered in a teaching pack, Taking Sex Seriously, recommended by a number of local education authorities.

Another set of teaching materials, Beyond A Phase, encouraged children of 13 to experiment with bisexuality. Her comments came in the House of Lords as she unsuccessfully moved an amendment to the Local Government Bill.

This would have given parents the right to call ballots over sex-education materials used in their children's schools. But her proposals were described as a "wrecking amendment" by Labour and Liberal Democrat peers, who said it would present teachers with an unworkable system.

The row came as Government advisers recommended that sex education should become compulsory in primary schools, as well as at secondary level.

In a report to Education Minister Margaret Hodge, the independent advisory group on teenage pregnancy also urged the Government to reassure children under 16 - in a nationwide advertising campaign - that their parents will not automatically be told if they seek contraceptive advice from a doctor or clinic.

Sex education already forms part of the compulsory curriculum in secondary schools, as a component of the Personal, Health and Social Education (PSHE) syllabus. But it is not currently provided in primary schools.

Gill Frances of the National Children's Bureau, who is also deputy chairman of the Government's advisory group, said the group was not recommending that five-year-olds should be given formal lessons about sex, but that the subject should be brought up in conversations with teachers.

In the case of the youngest primary children, this could be done in the context of a class discussion about where babies come from, when a child in the class got a new baby brother or sister.

But family values campaigners condemned the suggestion. Robert Whelan of Family and Youth Concern, an independent think tank, said there was no evidence to show primary school sex education affected rates of teenage pregnancy, which, in the UK, are the highest in Europe.

"The only evidence is that it might encourage sexual activity," he claimed.

Meanwhile, ministers have been warned that teenagers who explore their sexuality through "petting" may risk being criminalised under the Government's overhaul of the sex laws.

Anne Weyman, of the Family Planning Association, said that the Sexual Offences Bill - intended to protect sex-abuse victims - could mean under-16s facing up to five years in detention for fondling or kissing.

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